Can We Teach Our Children Well?

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For the past many days, I have read article after article, obsessed over each news story, and pored over the letter of the victim involved in the rape conviction of Brock Turner. As the mother of a college student and one soon to be college bound, I cry each time - unable to stop imagining what this woman has survived, how her parents feel, how any parent would feel - and struggling with what I am supposed to take away from this to teach my children.

Sadly, it is not news to my children (or anyone) that sexual assault is rampant on college campuses, that often it is a game of "he said, she said", that many victims never get justice, and that excessive drinking is not good for anybody. I have talked about this topic long after they have stopped listening. And yet, I still feel as if I need to help them understand the unimaginable reality that a young girl was raped while unconscious, that her attacker was caught in the act by brave bystanders, that she was able to withstand the ordeal of a trial, and that her rapist was convicted. And still, the Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Arron Persky handed down a six-month sentence. His rationale - time in prison would have "a severe impact on [Brock]." Much as I would just like to rant and rave about the injustice of the verdict (which I have done), I feel like I am supposed to do more about this, teach more, understand more.

So I talk to my childen about there being plenty of blame to go around - starting with the arrogant Brock Turner, whose Olympic dreams and school seem to get as much airtime (if not more) than the brutal rape he committed. I talk about the absolute hypocrisy of Brock blaming "party culture and risk-taking behavior" for his life-changing violence. I describe my outrage as Brock tried to justify that his college drinking began as a response to the rigors of school and being a competitive athlete. I tell them that just because news stories use "Stanford" as an adjective or that his Olympic-caliber swim times are mentioned - nothing, no accomplishment or label lessen the horror of his behavior.

But most importantly, I share with them the bravery of his victim, who had the courage to do what the irresponsible sentencing was unable to do - make Brock Turner face the truth of the unmitigated brutality of what he did. I keep rereading the victim's letter - stunned at the specifics of the pain Brock caused and the bravery she demonstrates with every syllable. She writes, "You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today." I feel myself cheering for her, hoping that she feels my support cheering her on, hoping she continues to get stronger with each passing day.

I point out the astounding ability of this extraordinary young woman (who I have never met, but admire) to find compassion for Brock. She treats him more like a person than he treated her from the moment of the rape through his comments at trial. She describes her perpsective with insight.

If you think I was spared, came out unscathed, that today I ride off into sunset, while you suffer the greatest blow, you are mistaken. Nobody wins. We have all been devastated, we have all been trying to find some meaning in all of this suffering ... I believe, that one day, you will understand all of this better. I hope you will become a better more honest person who can properly use this story to prevent another story like this from ever happening again. I fully support your journey to healing, to rebuilding your life, because that is the only way you'll begin to help others.

I will continue to talk about consequences, intended and unintended, of one's behavior and how one has to own up and take responsibility for behavior. I will reflect on the seeming ignorance and total denial of Brock's father, Dan, who has the nerve to say "That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20-plus years of life." I will commit myself even more strenuously to be a role model for my children - not only when things are easy, but more importantly, when things are hard.

I believe many more articles, tweets, posts and even books will be written about this young woman whose name we don't know and might never know. I don't need to know her name. I know she will do many amazing things in her life - not the least of which is surviving what happened to her and taking back her life. I know that I hope I am raising children who are as brave, clear, good and admittedly imperfect as this woman. Nameless and faceless, her life will matter - even if one young man whose name we know and can't forget, didn't think so.